Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Spiritual Implications of AZ's immigration law

Several years ago I joined a group interested in immigrants' rights. After all, the bishops teach us we should "welcome the stranger."  I'll admit, my activities were limited to reading an occasional email or article from the group and little else. However, Arizona's immigration law has opened the floodgates of news. Every day I read more and more articles like this one from American Catholic. The article (and many more like it) make it sound like a mortal sin to support any sort of immigration law.
Jesus ranked welcoming the stranger with feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. He said that those who don't do that "will go off to eternal punishment" (Mt 25:46).
To read some of these articles all we have to do is give these people free health care and rewrite all the signs in Spanish and we can all live happily as brothers and sisters. Other articles argue that the economy would collapse. But are the only sides to the issue "friendliness" vs. economics? What about the spiritual side of the equation?

I recently listened to a podcast titled "The Spiritual Implications of Illegal Immigration" by Jesse Romero. Mr. Romero is an immigrant himself, and has may immigrant relatives, both legal and illegal. He speaks from the heart about the spiritual dangers of allowing illegal immigration.

It is typically the case, according to Mr. Romero, that the illegal immigrant is a poor young father from a rural community. He scrimps and saves to raise the money to be smuggled over the border into America. There he lives, cut off from his wife and children. He does not speak the language, so there are no opportunities for him to enter American society. Instead, he lives in an isolated world, usually sharing an apartment with other illegal immigrants.

Between the low wages he is paid and the need to send money home to Mexico, he must find work every day as a day laborer. If he is not lucky enough to find work that day, he must work as a homosexual prostitute at night in order to be able to eat.

Alone and lonely, he eventually finds a woman, abandons his faith, and lives in sin. Meanwhile, his wife is left without a husband, and eventually without money, because he stops sending it to her. His children grow up without the love an guidance of a father. They turn to gangs and drugs to find protection and income. A family of souls has been destroyed.

For women it's even worse. The price for crossing the border always involves prostituting herself. If she is lucky, after the border crossing she winds up like the men, alone and helpless in a strange place. If she is not, the "coyotes" (those who smuggle the immigrants) hold her, addict her to drugs, and force her into prostitution permanently. More souls ruined.

I think we do desperately need immigration laws that are more just than the ones on the books, but we are not making things more just by failing to enforce the laws we already have. Simply giving these people a "path to citizenship" flaunts our laws, admits that we have no will to enforce law, treats people unfairly (an influx of Mexicans means restricting immigration elsewhere). But more importantly, it would still promote prostitution, drug trade and the breakup of families. Furthermore I have no confidence that our federal government (and I mean all three branches of the federal government) are interested (other than capitalizing on it for campaign purposes) in or capable of improving the situation.


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